From the local Dallas daily:
Nightcaps lead guitarist David Swartz, dead at 73
"David Swartz played lead guitar for the Nightcaps...whose Thunderbird was so good ZZ Top claimed it as their own."
Quote:One of the most influential guitarists from Dallas died earlier this month, and only now does news of his passing reach his former hometown. The sad note landed in the in-box Saturday, along with details for a memorial and wake, both scheduled to take place here on March 8.
David Swartz died in Salina, Oklahoma, on February 7 at the age of 73. It’s quite likely you’re unfamiliar with the name: Swartz made music a long, long time ago, when he was a teenager playing alongside other teenagers. He played on a handful of singles in the late 1950s and very early 1960s released on local businessman Tom Brown’s Vandan label, home to other legendary footnotes such as the Gentlemen and Five of a Kind. Then he went into the Navy, where he served as a medic, only to return home to open an insurance company — hardly the stuff of rock-and-role lore.
But consider his place in the pantheon: David Swartz played lead guitar for the Nightcaps, whose “Wine, Wine, Wine” ranks among The 100 Best Texas Songs and whose “Thunderbird” was so good ZZ Top claimed it as their own.
“The Nightcaps — that was the first album I ever bought,” Oak Cliff’s Jimmie Vaughan told me years ago. “I learned how to play lead and rhythm and bass and drums off that record practically. That was [expletive] there — ‘Wine, Wine, Wine.’ It had — and it’s hard to say exactly what it is — but it had just a feeling.”
Jimmie’s band the Fabulous Thunderbirds took its name from the Nightcaps’ song. It touched baby brother Stevie too, who, like ZZ Top, would record “Thunderbird” (but, unlike ZZ Top, would never claim he wrote it).
The Nightcaps — Billy Joe Shine on lead vocals, Gene Haufler on rhythm guitar, Mario Daboub on bass, Jack Allday on drums, Swartz on lead guitar — were kids who quickly lost their amateur status. Legend has it Shine wrote “Wine, Wine, Wine” during study hall at Jesuit High School, before it became Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. Soon after the Nightcaps were regional hit-makers playing house parties and sharing stages with the likes of up-and-comers named Ike and Tina Turner and immortals such as Jimmy Reed. They played everything too, from rockabilly to blues, providing the garage-rock template for others who followed — among them Steve Miller, who was playing with Boz Scaggs and their Marksmen by 1959, and Sam Samudio, who, after the release of the Wine, Wine, Wine LP in 1960, assembled his West Dallas Pharaohs.
“The Wine, Wine, Wine album was one of the best rock & roll LPs of its era,” note the band’s impressive Billboard bio. It also singles out Swartz — “a first-rate blues player,” it calls him, possessing “virtuosity and feeling for the music.” Alas, the record, recorded by Gene Vincent songwriter and WRR jock Bob Kelly, was probably stolen more often than it was sold, and the band pocketed just a little pocket change, most from gigs across the South during the early 1960s, before the lineup became a revolving door of guys who weren’t serving in the military at the time.
I first heard of them long, long after they’d disbanded: Four days before Christmas in 1992 the original members sued ZZ Top in Dallas federal court over the song “Thunderbird,” which appeared as the first song on ZZ Top’s fourth album, 1975′s Fandango!. The Nightcaps wanted $9,990,000 from the band, which, they said, had not only recorded “Thunderbird” but claimed it as their own.
And there is no doubt they did: A search of the U.S. Copyright Office’s database for “Thunderbird” shows “words and music by Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard.” Even ZZ Top eventually conceded “that its version of the song ‘Thunderbird’ is musically and lyrically identical to the version originally written and performed by the Nightcaps,” according to the U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling in January 1995.
But Judge Irving Goldberg dismissed the Nightcaps’ suit, ruling that the band’s window of opportunity to claim copyright had long since closed. “Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery,” Goldberg wrote, “but it may also lead to jealousy when the imitator succeeds where the imitated does not.”
The Nightcaps would play the occasional reunion show at Poor David’s Pub or at the Ponderosa Stomp in the 1990s and even later. But, as the judge insisted, their moment had long since passed. The teachers had long ago been eclipsed by their students who’d gone off to make millions at their expense. The city of Dallas wouldn’t officially recognize the Nightcaps until 2009, upon the occasion of the band’s 50th anniversary.
But you will have two chances to pay your final respects on March 8.
At 1:30 p.m. that Saturday, a church memorial will take place at Central Congregational Church of Dallas, which is on Royal Lane near the Dallas North Tollway. Then at 5 p.m., there will be a “music wake in Swartz’s honor” at Club Dada in Deep Ellum, according to Linda Freeman. She reminds: “Both remembrances are open to the public and casual dress is encouraged.”
Bring your own Thunderbird.
Just found they have a website: http://www.thenightcaps.com/about.html